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Is Stress Making You Sicker?

stress, depression, burnout, health issues, sick

You've probably heard that stress is bad for your health and can even contribute to serious conditions like heart disease.

But stress doesn't just lead to trouble down the road—it can also worsen health problems we already have.

We talked to Cedars-Sinai experts to understand why stress can aggravate and intensify pre-existing conditions, from skin problems to diabetes and hypertension—and what you can do about it.

"Our skin and brain are definitely connected."

The mind-body connection

"Our skin and brain are definitely connected," says dermatologist Dr. Ohara Aivaz.

When the body releases stress hormones, such as cortisol, our skin senses these hormones and creates a surge of inflammatory proteins. This may exacerbate a range of skin diseases."

Pre-existing skin conditions like hives, cold sores, acne, psoriasis, and dermatitis can be prolonged and intensified by stress, says Dr. Aivaz.

"Wound healing can also be slowed significantly if a patient is psychologically distressed," says Dr. Aivaz.

Stress and lifestyle

Healthy choices are more difficult to make when we're overstressed, and this can also make existing ailments worse.

"Diabetes and hypertension are examples of chronic conditions that require consistent attention to diet, lifestyle, and medication adherence, which can all be sabotaged by stress," says primary care physician Dr. Maria Scremin.

"Stress can prolong certain diseases and conditions for years."

"Stress makes it harder to stick to a diet or exercise routine, and often distracts people from their daily medication regimens."

According to Dr. Scremin, other conditions like insomnia, under- or overeating, irritability, and depression can all be triggered by stress, and these conditions then make illnesses and chronic diseases even worse.

"Stress can prolong certain diseases and conditions for years," she says.

Make plans to relax and rejuvenate

Communication is key